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Weeklies on the prospect of lasting delays to EU funds

June 12th, 2023

Left-wing commentators suspect that the government would rather give up the bulk of the EU transfers to Hungary than fulfil the rule of law conditions set by the European Commission. Pro-government columnists suggest that the controversy behind the frozen European funds is based on divergences over identity politics.

In Magyar Hang, Szabolcs Szerető suspects that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is already exploring ways in which Hungary can be governed without EU funds. He recalls a recent statement by Márton Nagy, the Minister of Economic Development, who said Hungary would not be entitled to those transfers anyway, as soon as its per capita GDP approaches the European average. If the government is indeed seriously preparing for a new era without EU funds, he continues, then the appeal of European Union membership must be fading from his consciousness. The Prime Minister must feel that he has already made enough concessions and doesn’t want new conditions to be dictated to him. Therefore, membership itself must be a bond that he would gladly shake off, Szerető speculates.

In Magyar Narancs, Balázs Váradi believes it would be mistaken for the opposition to pin its hopes on steps taken by the European Commission against the Hungarian government. He acknowledges that a series of measures have been taken to rein in the government, including the blocking of €8 or €9 billion in financial transfers and by now all competent commissioners have Hungarian-speaking bureaucrats on their teams who can inform them about what is happening in Hungary. On the other hand, Váradi remarks, German carmakers who run several plants in Hungary do not want too much noise around the country and German politicians pay attention to them. The bureaucrats of the European Commission, he continues, don’t want to be used as cannon fodder in the fight against the Hungarian government and therefore are tempted to accept what he sees as the partial or only apparent solutions proposed by the Hungarian authorities. All in all, he writes, all the disciplinary procedures within the European Union, although certainly unpleasant, represent no existential danger for Prime Minister Orbán’s government. ‘So it will be up to us Hungarians to get rid of it one day’, he concludes.

In her editorial summarising the main points of this week’s issue of Heti Világgazdaság, Györgyi Kocsis believes that the lack of European subsidies will cause serious problems in Hungary, all the more so since the public deficit is already compelling the government to impose new taxes on businesses and citizens alike. With no foreign subsidies flowing in, she writes, the survival of the regime depends on whether Hungarians are ready to maintain what she calls ‘a populist and corrupt regime’ from their own pockets. She doesn’t expect any miracles, however, and quotes a former anti-Communist dissident who tells her liberal weekly that Hungarians tend to rely on the elite putting things right for them which he attributes to the survival of what he calls autocratic schemes inherited from the late communist regime.

In Mandiner, Gergely Szilvay dismisses opposition claims according to which Hungary has driven itself into a blind alley which inevitably leads to leaving the European Union. He also finds it absurd for opposition-leaning intellectuals to regularly claim that people are suffering under an oppressive regime. Over half of the electorate repeatedly elects the same right-wing government, he remarks, but that doesn’t prevent its adversaries from maintaining that the electorate lives in misery. They accuse the people of having elected a dictator, in other words, he writes, left-wing intellectuals despise the people because they do not follow their advice.

In Demokrata, Gábor Bencsik puts the problems the Hungarian government has with its opposition and the European Union in a more general context. He describes the mainstream left in Hungary and in the Western world in general as the successor of erstwhile Marxist intellectuals. Despite the famous Marxist forecast, the proletariat has developed into a middle-class, and therefore neo-Marxist intellectuals had to find a new oppressed class for themselves to defend. They found it in the various identity minorities, mainly the sexual ones. The former proletariat which couldn’t follow them on this path, thus became the oppressor in their minds, while big business has become their ally, only too glad to be exonerated from its earlier position of the oppressor. Classical Marxism, Bencsik writes, was a serious theory and movement, unlike the new one based on identity politics.

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